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Author Archives: Karen R. Long

Poet Jericho Brown To Announce 2019 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award Winners In April

Photo Credit: Brian Cornelius Jericho Brown will announce the new class of Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners in Cleveland April 4. The charismatic and much-lauded poet, whose “The New Testament” won an Anisfield-Wolf prize four years ago, will also read from his just-publishing work “The Tradition.” The public is welcome to join him Thursday April 4 at 7 p.m. in the South Euclid/ Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.  Brown, 42, will cap the night with news of the 84th class of writers to win this year’s prize, honoring the 2018 books that best excel in confronting racism and exploring human diversity. Previous winners include Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Gunnar Myrdal, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, Marilyn Chin, Sandra Cisneros, Margot... Read More →

Claudia Rankine On Dismantling Racism And Prepping Cleveland’s Youth For Their Future

Credit: Katie McCullough Poet Claudia Rankine, born 56 years ago in Jamaica, returned to the city of her first college teaching post to kick off a community read of her slender, seminal book, Citizen: An American Lyric. “In a sense, I am home,” she told a Cleveland audience. “My husband grew up here. My time here was very important. I met my husband at Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry and I had my very first teaching job here.” The crowd, gathered in the Parma-Snow auditorium of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, cheered this bibliophilic beginning to romance. Rankine, a Yale University professor and chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, saw her first book, Nothing in Nature is Private, published in 1994 by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Filmmaker... Read More →

Author Claudia Rankine Brings “Citizen” To Cleveland January 23

Claudia Rankine and her “slender, musical book that arrives like a thunderclap” are coming to Cleveland, the first major literary event of the year. Thanks to the Big Read of the National Endowment for the Arts and the moxie of the staff at Cleveland’s Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, residents of Cuyahoga County will have eight weeks to soak up the brilliance of Citizen: An American Lyric. The book, which reached the New York Times bestseller list in 2014, is “a well-timed amalgam of poetry, essays and Serena Williams analysis,” according to Boris Kachka in Vulture. It is poised to launch a thousand local conversations. “Citizen,” as critic Parul Sehgal writes, “is an anatomy of American racism in the new millennium.” Megan Thompson, special projects manager for... Read More →

10 Gems From 2018 That Deserve A Spot On Your 2019 Reading List

As we bid adieu to 2018, allow us to shine a last, lingering reading light on ten highlights: the year’s titles from Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners.  It should surprise no one that several are already acclaimed as the best-of-the-year. All are worth reading. “American Histories: Stories” by John Edgar Wideman  In the latest literary stroke from an American master, these 21 short stories “are linked by astringent wit, audacious invention and a dry sensibility,” according to one critic. Another calls them “irresistible” and “profoundly moving.” The first, “JB & FD” imagines conversations between John Brown and Frederick Douglass. Another tale takes up with Jean-Michel Basquiat. Still another, “Williamsburg Bridge,” rests with a man contemplating... Read More →

Jesmyn Ward On The Politics Of Being A Southern Writer

When Jesmyn Ward took the stage with Ayana Mathis, each novelist glanced around the warm, lush Maltz Performing Arts Center in Cleveland and toward the hundreds of faces turned in their direction. “Here we are,” said Mathis, “two black women on a stage, two writers able to talk with each other; it’s really a beautiful thing.” Bathed in applause, Mathis acknowledged that this wasn’t their first public duet. When contacted about staging a conversation, Ward, winner of this year’s Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction, requested Mathis, whose debut novel, “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie,” garnered an Oprah Book Club selection in 2012.   Seated comfortably, each in boots and black trousers, the pair gave an intimate master class in the craft of fiction, part of the Skirball... Read More →

Laird Hunt’s Latest Novel Is A Stunning Mystery, Setting Readers Up For A Harrowing Ride

The new novel from Laird Hunt, “In the House in the Dark of the Woods,” has the feel of a hymnal. It is palm sized and red, and it contains a story nestled in the Puritan Colonial era. Hunt, 50, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2013 for “Kind One,” a haunting Civil War novel inspired by a short passage in Edward P. Jones’ masterpiece “The Known World.” Hunt is drawn to fable and journeys and psychological complexity. The new novel wastes no time entering the woods. The first two sentences, in the voice of the narrator, are “I told my man I was off to pick berries and that he should watch our son for I would be gone some good while. So away I went with a basket.” The woman goes missing, and Hunt excavates the ancient fears of women who abandon their families and... Read More →

Get A Taste Of Toi Derricotte’s New Poetry Collection, “I”

Photo by Linda Koolish Poet Toi Derricotte, whose 1998 prose publication “The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey” remains a pillar of American literature, has not been idle. The University of Pittsburgh Press will bring out a new book of her poetry, “I,” in March of next year. Derricotte, 77,  an emeritus professor at the University of Pittsburgh, co-founded Cave Canem in 1996, a revolutionary space for black writers. Nikky Finney calls it  to this day “the major watering hole and air pocket for black poetry.” “The Black Notebooks,” comprised of Derricotte’s journal entries from more than 20 years, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for nonfiction in 1998. Two years ago, Derricotte introduced her friend, poet Rita Dove, in Cleveland for a celebration of 30 years of... Read More →

Cleveland Book Week Highlights: N. Scott Momaday Speaks At City Club Of Cleveland

N. Scott MomadayPhotography by Michaelangelo's Photography N. Scott Momaday began with horses and ended with bears. He spoke of the sacredness of both. At 84, the recipient of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards lifetime achievement prize was both merry and measured on the dais of the City Club of Cleveland. He began with a tale about a hunting horse “black and fast and afraid of nothing.” Its owner was a coward, though, and when the man diverted the horse from battle, it died of shame. The elder who recounted this story to Momaday cried when he told it. The writer includes it in his book “The Way to Rainy Mountain.” “I have a distant relative who on one occasion gave away 250 horses from his private herd,” he said. His people, the Kiowa, “were rich in horses.” The centrality of the... Read More →

Starting Cleveland Book Week With A Look At How Literacy Changes Lives

Margo Hudson Margo Hudson, a Clevelander who won the National Learner Award in Dallas two years ago, reflected recently on how “literacy turned chaos into opportunity.” Her remarks kicked off the 2018 edition of Cleveland Book Week and attracted an early morning crowd to the East Cleveland Public Library under the banner of Creative Mornings – Cleveland. After 11 years spent sitting for six tests, Hudson earned her GED – a fortitude reflected in her erect posture, elegant up-do and patience with audience questions. She said Seeds of Literacy provided the format — one-on-one tutoring — that allowed her to learn best. “Literacy has made my life limitless,” said Hudson, who now tutors in math. “I am a different person, with a different life now. I am always learning. I am always... Read More →

Walter Mosley Tackles the Elusiveness of History in His New Novel, “John Woman”

“John Woman,” the newest novel from prolific and philosophical Walter Mosley, arrives today telling the story of a fugitive genius. It begins with Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVII – “Who will believe my verse in time to come” – and ends 36 chapters later with a mystery, its central character missing. Detectives find blood of more than one type on a New York City park bench. In between is the story of a character born Cornelius Jones, the son of an Italian-American sensualist and an older, self-taught black intellectual. The novel opens as Lucia Napoli is describing her youthful wanton desires to her 12-year-old son, whom she calls CC. The boy mostly lives with his father Herman, a silent film projectionist in New York’s East Village. As Herman’s health fails, Cornelius takes... Read More →
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